You’ll Turn Out Ordinary if You’re Not Careful

“I want you to see what you can do”

I think deep, deep down I absolutely know that this statement was at the heart of what made my mother make me who I was meant to be. We talk about it. We talk about the times when I questioned right versus wrong, we talk about why we do things with the best intentions and sometimes they lead us in different paths. More and more, each day do I realize how much this statement can change the way you interact with people.

Prior to the age of twelve I never saw myself in a position working with children. They did not interest me and I was also quite tired of how we glorified the most ridiculous accomplishments (congratulations, you earn a sticker for going to the bathroom/for picking up a pencil/for not losing things/etc.) I was a kid and I thought those things. As I reflect back though, what normal eleven-year old writes her own Will and Testament? I viewed teachers as having a “ceiling” job, meaning that there was no room for advancement beyond a principal and you worked your butt off for nothing. I wanted to be a veterinarian because people sucked at looking after their animals and they like to pretend they know how they feel. Then I wanted to be a sport physiotherapist because I was sporty and basically knew how to work every physio device at the clinic after all my injuries. Plus, it made money. After, I wanted to be lawyer, a family lawyer. I liked evidence, cause and effect, justice and advocacy. The only problem was that lawyers are so secretive. I wanted a position where that I could share.  All of this and then I graduated High School.

Now you have background. So how did I end up working with children? I thank my mother for insisting that I volunteer as a Day Camp leader when I was 12. I’ve always loved being creative and I was a shy thing but a rough thing, so maybe kids would help un-harden my shell a bit? Well I don’t know how I felt about receiving the camp name, “Grumpy” from Snow White on the first day but I think it was after this that I was determined to be the most un-grumpy, Grumpy. Hell, I wanted to be Happy (which my friend got the coveted golden name of). I figured, at least if I was Grumpy I could only get happier and if I ever was grumpy it would make sense. It doesn’t look good to be a grumpy, Happy. Shortly after this stint I volunteer coached at my canoe club. I learned how much I did not know about paddling. However after these experiences I was hooked, I loved to teach and most importantly, I loved to learn.

“I want you to see what you can do” I say to my charges on the daily but I emphasize it the most with Masters. These Masters are not kids, they are adults and they could be my parents age. I am basically coaching my parents. From coaching kids to adults I have learned this: We are all really confused and age doesn’t make us more prepared. In fact, being an adult is very hard because you usually are just winging it. While I have preached this statement time and time again, I never really thought about what it meant because honestly it’s just one of those “growth-mindset” things you say. The past year has offered me the opportunity to really know how it feels when it’s working. I am a passionate, attached to everything that has goodness, kind of person but even some days my sarcasm can’t block frustration. Because of these days, I learned why people celebrate small, frivalous accomplishments. I learned how it felt to feel responsible for how someone was becoming. I learned the depth of my statement: I want you to see what you can do.

“I want you to help me see you” To a kid it means that you do not possibly know the signifcance of your being. I am not saying I can see it either (because honestly, sometimes the hamster wheel is hamster-less) but I am saying that you’ll regret not trying to see your significance. I am saying that no matter where you come from your dreams are valid.

“I want you to see who you are” You have snot running out of your nose or you always look tired. No matter what you say, what you look like on the outside is a pretty clear picture on how you feel about your inside. Yeah, I am aware. You’re not supposed to emphasize body image but I am emphasizing presentation. Just like a good lawyer wouldn’t walk into the courtroom in pyjamas, a person ready to grow their mind won’t show up with curlers in their hair and spinach in their teeth.

“I want you to know you can learn” This has been the biggest accomplishment for any Masters. Recently I started learning how to ride horses and on my first day I fell off. Embarrassed to have fallen I quickly got back on before I knew what had just happened. Things will always take time but just like you learn to ride a bike you can learn to paddle.

“I want you to know how to handle fear” I want you to CLIMB and climb HIGH. I want you to get stuck, look down and tremble. I want you to tip over. Then I want you to process and process well. What are you going to do? How will you get down? Do you need to ask for help? The biggest thing when it comes to kids is that we are so quick to jump in when all a kid needs to do is hold on or stand up. I think ANY child of ANY ability deserves to know fear (in a “as-it-happens” sort of way). I’ll stand there and cheer you on as you learn to handle fear. You know what can conquer fear? Hope. Hope is when you hold on and don’t let go. Hope is when you figure out that the mountain is not so high. Fear is good, panic is not.

“I want you to handle help” My teaching you or coaching you, that is something I’ve chosen to do. I have a way of doing things, you have a way of doing things. How remarkable would it be if we could combine superpowers? I’m not a slave and you’re not my minion. I am not good at math but I will try and help you no matter what. You’re not good at math, so you’ll explore the process with me. I respect you, you respect me. Easy.

“I want you to see the process” Like all things worth doing, these things take time. These things are not a once-in-a-while commitment, they’re an everyday habit. Want to be good at something? Do it, everyday. Get stuck, have a meltdown. Repeat.

“I want you to become yourself” As an EPA my job isn’t to have kids make my life easier. I make theirs a little more manageable so one day they can wear a cap and gown and know that they got themselves there. Does this mean I will pick up after you’ve angrily thrown your garbage on the floor. Nope. Does this mean I’ll solve all your life problems? Not necessarily. However, if you’re by yourself and want to play tag with someone, count me in. If you want to climb a wall with your friends, I’ll make sure you feel safe. As a coach my job isn’t to pump you full of feel-good quotes all the time. Does this mean I’ll say that you suck? Absolutely not, because, it’s not just you, we all suck at stuff sometimes so singling you out wouldn’t be fair. Does this mean I’ll hang around a little longer to watch you paddle? Of course. Does this mean I’ll come up with really cheesy sayings to remember technical tips or force you to try different things? Yup. All part of learning to become yourself. The great part is, as you learn to become yourself I learn to become myself too.

All of these things are what makes, “I want you to see what you can do” happen. While I attempt to live a growth-mindset and model it, I’ve already seen a snippet of what I can do. I went from being a child-loathing, Grumpy to a soppy, please-don’t-let-this-be-goodbye athlete herder, kid wrangler, motivational speaker and human tissue. While the pre-twelve year old me would have loved a job as a veterinarian living in a big mansion, I think the greatest responsibility one can have is teaching someone what they can do. It feels satisfying knowing that one day, the people who might look after me when I’m old are the people I taught that the world can be an unfriendly place but you have had the ability all along to be someone of significance within it.

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